7 Tips for Designing a Profitable Restaurant Menu

Putting together a good menu goes far beyond simply listing your offerings and how much they cost. The importance of a good layout cannot be overstated. Every single person who is coming into your restaurant will be looking at the menu,  so it is imperative to design it in such a way that will maximize your profits. Here are some tips to help you do just that.


Research has found that in any given menu category, diners are most likely to order the first two or the last two items listed. So, it would make sense to place your most profitable items in these slots to ensure you sell in a larger quantity.


Highlighting certain items is also a powerful way to boost sales. Boxing certain dishes is a good strategy but you want to avoid too much clutter; as a general rule, box every eight to 10 items—because they are getting more attention, you want to focus on items that net you a higher profit margin. As an aid to first-time orders, you might also consider marking certain items with a star or some other symbol, along with something like ‘’most popular’’ or ‘’chef’s recommendation.’’ Highlighting items may increase sales up to 15 percent.

Page Positioning

According to research, most diners look at the menu in a specific sequence and taking this sequence into consideration when designing your menu can boost sales. For tri-fold menus, the typical pattern is center, right top corner and counterclockwise from there; if your menu is two pages, the top right corner gets the first glance, and again, counterclockwise from there. For the one-pagers, the items in the top half usually get most of the play.

Considerations for Graphics

For the most part, graphics can help sales, but you need to do them right. One exception may be more high-end establishments as pictures of any kind may give an impression of ‘’cheapness.’’ Clip art can be a good idea for restaurants that boast a fun, lively atmosphere; pictures can be especially helpful if you have items that patrons may be unfamiliar with or if you want to showcase your chef’s culinary talents.


When it comes to displaying your prices, it may help if they stand out a little less from the menu items and descriptions. If they are very bold and obvious, it may lead patrons to select items solely based on price. Move pricing into the description with a similar font size or a bit smaller, and remove the dollar sign.  If you are serving middle and lower-income class diners, slight changes in pricing can be a big difference—consider rounding down. 3.95 and 4.00 may not seem like a big difference but psychology uncovers interesting findings and it can make a big difference in the minds of customers.

Menu Inserts

Menu inserts are also a great way to entice customers to order. It creates a sense that the items are special and you can only get them in your establishment. They are great for showcasing your high-profit specials or items that you are not offering on a regular basis but may move into the regular menu eventually.


Whether or not to use descriptions is a matter of debate and it really depends on your offerings. If you do decide to go with descriptions, short is always best—include the most basic information that someone might want to know—this can cut down on questions about whether a dish is vegetarian, contains allergens,etc…Avoid hyperbole and detailed information as diners typically only read about one-third of a menu.
Kelli Cooper, writing for MenuShoppe.com, is a freelance writer who has written extensively about all aspects of opening and running a restaurant.
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